2015 in Film

So far, I've seen 108 films released in 2015, and before I get to the full ranking below, I want to highlight a few superlatives.

Best – Anomalisa

I spent most of this movie literally on the edge of my seat, mouth agape, and it was purely through the power of the writing. It’s an unusually straightforward story for Kaufman, but it’s anchored by a staggeringly literalized metaphor that elucidates an emotional issue in a way I’ve never seen. There’s a scene over a breakfast that broke my heart, and it features one of the most beautiful sex scenes I’ve ever seen, and it’s enacted by dolls. This is an all-timer.


Worst – The Riot Club

An ugly, mean, pointless movie, and the less said about it the better.


Most Underrated – Kumiko the Treasure Hunter

I only say this is underrated because nobody talked about it at the end of the year, nor do I know anybody else who actually saw it. It’s a bone-dry, pitch-black comedy that’s also a painfully beautiful character study, full of absurdist scenes and moments that touch on the Coen influences while always feeling like its own thing. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and that’s a rare feeling.


Most Overrated – Magic Mike XXL

I’m continually shocked and confused that people found this a feminist sex-positive film. To me, it felt focused on male fantasies of rape and dominance, dressed up as a celebration of women, with a hefty dose of condescension in all the self-congratulation over how meaningful these men are to the women they “celebrate.” Just a gross, unpleasant film.


Biggest Disappointment – A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

This is only a disappointment in that it’s exactly the same movie as one of my favorites, Songs from the Second Floor, part one of the trilogy that A Pigeon closes out. The first part thrilled me, the second made me say, “Wait, wasn’t that just the same movie?” and the third made me say, “Oh God, it’s the same movie again.” Taken as one six-hour film, maybe it works, but six hours is a damn long film.


Other Biggest Disappointment – The End of the Tour

DFW deserved a better movie than this flattening-out defined entirely by his eventual suicide. Jason Siegel played the role as the human equivalent of a sad-faced emoji, whereas the book of transcripts the screenplay was drawn from reveals much more energy and wit to DFW in that period. A film about depression that denies any of the subtlety and shading of real depression, particularly the depression of such a brilliant mind.


Most Welcome Surprise – Sleeping With Other People

I never would have guessed that a relatively mainstream romcom would sneak into my Top 10, but this isn’t your typical romcom. It paints with every single shade on the emotional color wheel, and features one of my top scenes of the year in the birthday party sequence, a perfect synthesis of music, camerawork, acting, and storytelling that affected me in a shocking, chemical way.


Most Fun Had – Macbeth

There have been plenty of good Macbeths, and I’ve always dreamed of the big, stupid, version, so I watched this with a big, stupid grin on my face. It’s 300 written by Shakespeare, and that’s very close to my ideal version of the story.


Most Sentimentally Important – The Martian

My grandmother died this fall, and I spent a week in Maine with my family as we all went through the stages of grief together. But the first morning I woke up back home in Somerville, I realized sadness was giving way to depression, a very different, scarier beast. I spent the day on the couch, unmotivated and anhedonic, and mid-afternoon, I abruptly realized I needed to walk the fifteen minutes to the Somerville theater and see the very next showing of whatever was playing. And what was plating was The Martian. I walked in just as the credits began, into the big, grand, balconied theater, and settled in to an aisle seat in the middle.

And for over two hours, I laughed, and I gasped, and I got tears in my eyes, and at the end, we all clapped. I didn’t see one person to go the bathroom for the entire runtime. Being in that theater was healing for my soul, and I walked home rejuvenated, lighter than I'd felt in a week.

As I walked home, I thought about a Drew McWeeny piece, in which he discusses his search for religion as a young man, which culminated in going to see Brazil and suddenly feeling it all click: 

"If you attend church looking for answers about the world, that's exactly why I attend movie theaters. If you look for a sense of community in your church, that's what I find in movie theaters as well. If church is a place where you go to find your center, to reset your own moral barometer, or to better understand who you are and why you are here, that is exactly what I get from my church as well."

I really did feel like something special happened to my soul that night. So, yeah, I liked The Martian a lot.


And now, the full ranking of all 108 2015 released I’ve seen so far:


1. Anomalisa

2. Inside Out

3. The Martian

4. Dope

5. Kumiko the Treasure Hunter

6. 45 Years

7. Macbeth

8. Mad Max: Fury Road

9. Sleeping With Other People

10. Love & Mercy

11. The Stanford Prison Experiment

12. Slow West

13. The Forbidden Room

14. The Hateful Eight

15. Mistress America

16. The Nightmare

17. The Duke of Burgundy

18. What We Did On Our Holiday

19. Finders Keepers

20. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

21. Reality

22. Entertainment

23. Ex Machina

24. Eden

25. Going Clear

26. Trainwreck

27. Brooklyn

28. Christmas, Again

29. Z for Zachariah

30. Manson Family Vacation

31. Gabriel

32. Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed

33. Unexpected

34. While We’re Young

35. The Seven Five

36. Spotlight

37. Amira & Sam

38. The Wolfpack

39. Spy

40. Clouds of Sils Maria

41. Lost River

42. The Keeping Room

43. Cop Car

44. The Yes Men Are Revolting

45. Balls Out

46. Man Up

47. The Salvation

48. Infinitely Polar Bear

49. Queen of Earth

50. Zero Motivation

51. True Story

52. Wild Tales

53. Spring

54. American Ultra

55. Ant-Man

56. The Falling

57. Lambert & Stamp

58. Kingsman: The Secret Service

59. Ten Thousand Saints

60. The DUFF

61. Avengers: Age of Ultron

62. Jurassic World

63. Welcome to Me

64. It Follows

65. The D Train

66. Ted 2

67. Joy

68. The Gift

69. Digging for Fire

70. Break Point

71. Dark Places

72. Bone Tomahawk

73. People, Places, Things

74. Results

75. I Believe in Unicorns

76. Patch Town

77. Maps to the Stars

78. The Rewrite

79. The Voices

80. The Last Five Years

81. Faults

82. Walter

83. Staten Island Summer

84. Aloha

85. Adult Beginners

86. We Are Still Here

87. Goodnight Mommy

88. Hits

89. Jupiter Ascending

90. Alex of Venice

91. Woman in Gold

92. The Lesson

93. Breathe

94. Kill Me Three Times

95. Bluebird

96. Buzzard

97. Accidental Love

98. The Leisure Class

99. Da Sweet Blood of Jesus

100. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

101. Growing Up and Other Lies

102. The Search for General Tso

103. Slow Learners

104. Magic Mike XXL

105. The Riot Club


Two movies I can’t rank because I can’t possibly be objective about them:

- The End of the Tour (see above)

- Star Wars VII (anyone who grew up as addicted to the original trilogy as I was and claims to be objective about this film is lying)

A movie I can’t rank because it’s barely a movie:

- Hurricane of Fun



Ethan Warren